Local precautions expand in response to coronavirus
Local government, school districts, residents and businesses are grappling with what to do about the coronavirus, which the Centers for Disease Control predicts will soon become widespread in the United States and has pandemic status across the world.
The Georgetown County School District is following guidelines set by the CDC and the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. It has increased the number of custodial employees to do more cleaning and is monitoring absenteeism among students and staff.
“We’ve been working on the virus prevention team,” Superintendent Randy Dozier said. “This is nothing new to us.”
The protocols that apply every year during flu season were already in place, he said.
All the district schools have registered nurses. The district also has equipment to disinfect facilities.
“We can spray a classroom in a matter of minutes,” Dozier said.
District officials are also preparing an e-learning plan in case there is an outbreak of COVID-19 that requires schools to be closed.
Two people in the state had positive tests confirmed as of Wednesday. There were eight presumed positive tests awaiting confirmation, according to DHEC.
County officials have begun weekly conference calls with state health officials. The county’s emergency management division has handled a series of weather emergencies in recent years, but not a pandemic, said Jackie Broach-Akers, the county’s public information officer.
“We’re also taking a strong look at continuity plans for continuing essential government services should the virus start to spread significantly in our area and if quarantines or other measures that may potentially become necessary,” Broach-Akers said. “Departments are reviewing which staff members can work remotely if necessary and which programs may need to be limited or temporarily halted.”
One major concern for the county is senior centers where older residents gather for recreation and meals. According to the CDC, older people who contract the coronavirus have a higher risk of developing a serious case. The county may begin delivering meals to seniors.
Cleaning and sanitation efforts at county facilities have been stepped up, Broach-Akers said. At the jail, no inmate with flu-like symptoms is being accepted unless cleared by a hospital first.
Tidelands Health began a screening process last week designed to restrict access to its two hospitals for visitors with flu-like symptoms. It expanded that today with a limit on entrances and the number of visitors.
“We routinely care for individuals with potentially infectious illnesses and have comprehensive infection prevention processes and protocols in place,” Chris Rees, Tidelands’ vice president of safety, said. “We continue to welcome visitors to our hospitals, but it’s important that we limit access by visitors with flu-like symptoms to help protect against the spread of illness in the community.”
Tidelands is also screening people at its outpatient care locations.
Brookgreen Garden has no plans to cancel any classes or events, but is providing hand sanitizer at ticket booths and ticket counters and requiring employees who handle money to wear gloves. Brookgreen is embracing the CDC recommendation to keep out of close proximity of people.
“We have plenty of room to be out in the open fresh air, in your own personal space,” said Lauren Joseph, Brookgreen’s director of marketing.
Hobcaw Barony announced that it is sanitizing its buses after every tour and providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer at the front door of the Discovery Center.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus to be a pandemic, with 127,757 cases worldwide. Of those, 4,389 people have died. More than 1,000 cases have been reported in 36 states.
An infected person spreads coronavirus by coughing or sneezing on or near a person, touching a person after covering their mouth during a cough or sneeze, or leaving residue from a cough or sneeze on a surface that another person then touches.
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus is to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often and use disinfectant on surfaces that are touched a lot, such as door handles, keyboards, bathroom fixtures, tables and phones.
Coronavirus symptoms, which can appear two to 14 days after exposure, include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The CDC reports that cases of coronavirus have ranged from mild to severe. In China, 16 percent of the cases were serious.
Older people and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are at a higher risk of developing a serious case of coronavirus. People who think they have been exposed to coronavirus should stay home and avoid contact with people.
At this time, there is no vaccine against coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it.